15 Greatest Songs That Are 60 Years Old This Year
via The Howard Stern Show / YouTube
Sixty years ago is 1963, a year when the golden age of rock ‘n’ roll is thriving, leaving an ineffaceable mark on history of music and culture. And as the years roll on, some the most iconic anthems from that year celebrate their 60th birthdays this year.
In that year, the music landscape underwent a seismic shift, defining an era marked by groundbreaking releases and historic events. The year saw The Beatles’ meteoric rise with hits like “I Want to Hold Your Hand” and the emergence of the British Invasion in the U.S. Folk icon Bob Dylan and, pop legends The Beach Boys, and garage rock royalties The Kingsmen also released their own history-making tracks.
1963 also bore witness to monumental cultural moments, most notably The Beatles’ legendary appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show, which ignited the British Invasion and reshaped the American music scene, and the “March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom”, which fused music and civil rights, featuring performances by icons like Joan Baez and Bob, culminating in Martin Luther King Jr.’s historic “I Have a Dream” speech.
The following 15 songs are veritable time capsules, transporting us back to the era of long hair, bell-bottoms, and electric guitars. With every strum of the chords and every lyrical verse, they echo the spirit of rebellion, love, and a yearning for freedom that defined an entire generation.
15. “Can I Get A Witness” by Marvin Gaye
Marvin Gaye’s “Can I Get A Witness”, released in 1963, is a classic hit that showcases his unparalleled vocal talent and the raw energy of the era. The song is a vibrant declaration of the joy and excitement that music can bring.
This track was written by the collaborative talents of Brian Holland, Lamont Dozier, and Eddie Holland. It was produced by the duo of Brian Holland and Dozier, and notably released as a non-album single.
As per Holland’s account, when Gaye listened to the former’s performance of the song, he gave a nod of approval and calmly remarked, “I’m ready”. Gaye delivered an exceptional rendition of the song in a single take, leaving Holland, his brother, and Dozier thoroughly impressed. The songwriter would later describe Gaye as “the most versatile vocalist I ever worked with”.
14. “Glad All Over” by The Dave Clark Five
In 1963, The Dave Clark Five burst onto the music scene with “Glad All Over”, a classic pop rock anthem that embodied the spirit of the era. This song was an infectious explosion of energy and enthusiasm, capturing the hearts of fans on both sides of the Atlantic.
“Glad All Over” showcased Mike Smith Smith at the helm, leading unison group vocals, often in a call-and-response style. The song featured a distinctive saxophone line, not as a solo embellishment but as a foundational element throughout the entire composition.
The song soared to the top and ignited the short-lived but famous DC5 vs. Beatles rivalry, after it unseated the immensely popular “I Want To Hold Your Hand” from the UK No.1 spot. In April 1964, the song reached No. 6 on the American US Billboard Hot 100 chart, becoming a landmark as the first British Invasion hit by a group other than The Beatles.
13. “Another Saturday Night” by Sam Cooke
In 1963, Sam Cooke delivered “Another Saturday Night”, an R&B hit from one of the most influential soul artists of all time.
This classic was featured on Cooke’s album Ain’t That Good News. The song’s origin is traced back to Cooke’s experiences while touring in England, during which he stayed in a hotel that did not permit female guests. Despite this peculiar circumstance, “Another Saturday Night” made its mark by reaching No. 10 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart and claiming the No. 1 spot on the R&B chart for a week.
Described by Cash Box as a narrative of a man who possesses the means but not the companion to share his time, it was recognized as an enjoyable listening and dance floor treat, particularly for the teen audience.
12. “It’s All Right” by The Impressions
In 1963, The Impressions gifted the world “It’s All Right”, another soul classic that exudes a message of positivity and resilience. This song’s release in 1963 made it an anthem of hope and assurance during a time of social change and musical evolution.
“It’s All Right” was penned by The Impressions’ lead singer, Curtis Mayfield. This track marked a milestone in the group’s chart success, becoming their most triumphant entry in their musical journey. “It’s All Right” secured a place in history as one of the two songs by the group that attained top-ten positions on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, setting the stage for an impressive run.
It also initiated a sequence of achievements by claiming the first of six number-one positions on the Billboard R&B chart, solidifying The Impressions’ prominence in the world of rhythm and blues.
11. “Twist And Shout” by The Beatles
You could list a top 10 list of The Beatles songs in 1963, and it wouldn’t be a surprise if many of them will wind up in this list. “Twist And Shout” by the Fab Four is an electrifying example of the era’s joyful spirit. It was also a cover of a Top Notes song, that has already been popularized by the Isley Brothers a few years ago.
But the Beatles’ interpretation of “Twist and Shout”, which drew inspiration from the Isleys, was arguably the best and the most celebrated. John Lennon took the lead vocals in this iconic performance and initially expressed a sense of self-consciousness, admitting that he could have sung it better.
Lennon later later reconciled with his delivery, remarking on the fervent energy of the first take. Their “Twist and Shout” has gained legendary status as “the most famous single take in rock history.”
10. “Surf City” by Jan and Dean
“Surf City” by Jan and Dean, released in 1963, is a classic rock song that encapsulates the carefree spirit and surf culture of the early ’60s. As a song written by surf rock royalty Brian Wilson himself, this anthem for beachgoers and surf enthusiasts the very first surf song to claim the top spot on the national music charts.
The song’s origins reveal an interesting interplay of creativity. Initially, Wilson drafted the song with the working title “Goody Connie Won’t You Come Back Home”. However, during a gathering with Jan Berry and Dean Torrence, Wilson played the song on the piano.
Berry and Torrence proposed recording the song as a single, but Wilson declined, as the said song was intended for the Beach Boys. Instead, Wilson suggested that Jan and Dean tackle “Surf City” and provided a demo of its opening, verse, and chorus. Over time, Berry and Torrence made further contributions to the song’s creation, with Torrence offering phrases, although he didn’t insist on receiving formal writing credit for his input.
9. “My Boyfriend’s Back” by The Angels
1963 brought us “My Boyfriend’s Back” by The Angels, a classic pop hit with a fierce and empowered message. The group’s catchy and unapologetic lyrics, combined with their spirited performance, gave “My Boyfriend’s Back” its lasting charm.
The spark of inspiration for this song came from co-writer Bob Feldman, who eavesdropped on a conversation between a high school girl and the young man she was rejecting. “My Boyfriend’s Back” was lauded by Cash Box as a vibrant and rhythmically engaging delight, likened to a handclapping, mashed-potatoes-style celebration.
The song’s arrangement, masterminded by Leroy Glover, received commendation. Billboard recognized the enduring appeal of the song, ranking it at No. 24 on their list of the “100 Greatest Girl Group Songs of All Time.”
8. “Blue Velvet” by Bobby Vinton
Another traditional pop hit was the cover of “Blue Velvet”. This a well-known song was originally written in 1950 by songwriting duo Bernie Wayne and Lee Morris. The song found its initial chart success when Tony Bennett recorded it in 1951, but, over the years, “Blue Velvet” underwent several reinterpretations.
The most successful recording of the classic track was accomplished by Bobby Vinton on May 27, 1963, with a subsequent release in August of the same year. Backed by Burt Bacharach and his Orchestra, Vinton’s version swiftly ascended to No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100, maintaining this pinnacle position for two consecutive weeks.
The decision to include “Blue Velvet” on Vinton’s hit album Blue on Blue album reportedly arose from Vinton’s friend and music publisher, Al Gallico. Vinton had recorded “Blue Velvet” in just two takes. Interestingly, Vinton didn’t anticipate the song’s remarkable success, believing that his remake of “Am I Blue?” held greater sales potential.
7. “I Saw Her Standing There” by The Beatles
Another Beatles hit, “I Saw Her Standing There” is a rock love song crafted by Paul McCartney and John Lennon. This track serves as the opening piece of the Fab Four’s debut hit Please Please Me (UK) and Introducing… The Beatles (US).
In December 1963, Capitol Records introduced the song to the United States, positioning it as the B-side of the Beatles’ initial single under the label, “I Want to Hold Your Hand”. “I Saw Her Standing There” made its mark on the Billboard Hot 100 on February 8, 1964, maintaining its presence for 11 weeks and reaching a peak position of No. 14.
The song also briefly graced the Cash Box chart for one week, entering at No. 100 during its debut on the Billboard chart. In recognition of its timeless significance, “I Saw Her Standing There” claimed the No. 139 spot on Rolling Stone’s esteemed list of the “500 Greatest Songs of All Time” in 2004.
6. “Blowin’ In The Wind” by Bob Dylan
The year 1963 marked a powerful moment in the folk and classic rock with “Blowin’ In The Wind”. Bob Dylan’s iconic songwriting, along with the stirring interpretation by Peter, Paul & Mary, created an anthem for change and social awareness.
This track off The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan challenges listeners to ponder profound questions about the world and society. It’s a call for reflection, empathy, and action. Whether through Dylan’s introspective performance or the stirring harmonies of Peter, Paul & Mary, the song’s relevance endures as a reminder of the enduring power of music to spark conversations about the state of the world.
In 1994, the song received a well-deserved honor as it was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame. Furthermore, in 2004, it earned a prestigious ranking, securing the 14th spot on Rolling Stone magazine’s compilation of the “500 Greatest Songs of All Time”.
5. “She Loves You” by The Beatles
1963 was truly a remarkable year for music, and The Beatles played a significant role in shaping its sound. “She Loves You” is another classic rock gem from this iconic British band. With its infectious “Yeah, yeah, yeah!” chorus, it’s a song that embodies era’s youthful spirit and energy.
Released in the midst of Beatlemania, “She Loves You” was an instant hit, charming audiences on both sides of the Atlantic. The single not only achieved considerable commercial success but also set and surpassed multiple sales records in the United Kingdom charts. It notably made history in the United States, where it became one of the five Beatles songs to simultaneously occupy the top five positions on the charts on April 4, 1964.
In November 2004, “She Loves You” received recognition from Rolling Stone, securing the 64th position on their prestigious list of the “500 Greatest Songs of All Time”. Additionally, in August 2009, during the conclusion of its Beatles Weekend, BBC Radio 2 disclosed that, based on data from the Official Charts Company, “She Loves You” reigned as the Beatles’ all-time best-selling single in the UK.
4. “Be My Baby” by The Ronettes
“Be My Baby” by The Ronettes is a classic pop hit that epitomizes the era’s signature “wall of sound” production. The song features Phil Spector’s meticulous orchestration, creating a lush and grandiose sonic landscape that perfectly complements the heartfelt vocals of lead singer Ronnie Spector.
This composition marked a pinnacle in the Ronettes’ career, reaching No. 2 in the United States and number 4 in the United Kingdom. Widely acclaimed, it frequently earns a spot on lists of the finest songs of the 1960s and is regarded by many as one of the greatest songs ever recorded.
Over the decades since its release, “Be My Baby” has enjoyed extensive airplay on both radio and television, accumulating more than 3 million broadcasts. The distinctive drum phrase, one of the most recognizable in pop music, has been emulated by many musicians.
3. “Surfin’ U.S.A.” by The Beach Boys
In 1963, The Beach Boys introduced the world to the California sound with their infectious hit, “Surfin’ U.S.A”. This classic rock song is synonymous with the sun, sand, and endless summers, capturing the spirit of youth, adventure, and the surf culture that was sweeping the West Coast during the early ’60s.
This Beach Boys classic is essentially a reworked version of Chuck Berry’s “Sweet Little Sixteen”, featuring fresh lyrics penned by Brian Wilson, with an uncredited contribution from Mike Love.
The Beach Boys’ lyrics in the song, which is a recurring theme of their hits, portray a lifestyle characterized by abundance, with a strong connection to the idea of the promised land, particularly exemplified by southern California. Over six decades later, “Surfin’ U.S.A.” still transports listeners to the sun-drenched beaches of California.
2. “Louie Louie” by The Kingsmen
In the summer of 1963, “Louie Louie” by The Kingsmen erupted onto the music scene with its raw and raucous energy. This classic rock hit is often celebrated for its garage band sound, which is characterized by its unpolished, unapologetic approach to rock music.
Originally an R&B song written and composed by Richard Berry in 1955, the Portland rockers’ rendition brought a distinct transformation, characterized by its seemingly ragged and chaotic quality. Their interpretation introduced an element of “shambolic, lumbering style,” punctuated by a “manic lead guitar solo” and a series of “insane cymbal crashes”.
In a list of the 1001 greatest singles ever made, notable music critic Dave Marsh positioned Kingsmen’s “Louie Louie” at No. 11, describing it as “the most profound and sublime expression of rock and roll’s ability to create something from nothing”. The Independent, a British publication, noted that the song reinforced a growing belief that enthusiasm held greater significance in rock ‘n’ roll than technical prowess or literal interpretation.
1. “I Want to Hold Your Hand” by The Beatles
In 1963, The Beatles unleashed a musical revolution with “I Want to Hold Your Hand.” This iconic classic rock song not only became a chart-topping hit but also marked the beginning of the “British Invasion” in the American music scene.
Its catchy melodies, harmonious vocals, and energetic guitar riff encapsulated the excitement of a new era in music. The song’s success not only catapulted The Beatles to international stardom but also paved the way for a wave of British rock and pop acts that would reshape the music industry.
“I Want to Hold Your Hand” garnered an extraordinary response in the United Kingdom, with advance orders surpassing a million copies. The song was poised for an instantaneous ascent to the top of the British record charts upon its release on November 29, 1963. However, this ascent was momentarily halted by the band’s earlier million-selling hit, “She Loves You”. which was experiencing a resurgence in popularity, largely attributed to extensive media coverage of the group.